After reviewing interim superintendent applications from five candidates, the Kent School Board unanimously decided to keep Israel Vela in the role until it finds a new superintendent.
The board appointed Vela in July to a 30-day contract as interim superintendent after Calvin Watts left to become superintendent of the Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia. The five-member board initially agreed to search for another interim superintendent.
Five people applied for the job and each applicant was reviewed by the board, according to a Sept. 24 email from Kent School District spokesperson Melissa Laramie.
Board President Denise Daniels explained the decision to keep Vela as interim superintendent at the Sept. 22 board meeting prior to the vote to ratify the contract.
“I am very appreciative of interim superintendent Vela stepping up and not missing a beat as we have engaged in this process,” Daniels said. “He’s been committed. We had other applicants and reviewed those applications, and it was clear to us we were making the right decision. I am very excited you have agreed to step up and serve.”
Vela was the district’s chief school operations and academic support officer, one of four lead administrators under Watts.
The board had planned to interview candidates, but decided Vela was the most qualified and appropriate individual to serve the interests of the students and district until a new superintendent is chosen, according to the resolution adopted to appoint Vela.
“The board finds Interim Superintendent Vela has demonstrated the background, exceptionally well-qualified administrative skill and requisite commitment to students, staff and the board of directors which justify a permanent appointment as interim superintendent,” according to the resolution.
Vela’s initial contract started on Aug. 2 and expired Sept. 2 before the board agreed to a further extension on Aug. 25 and the permanent appointment on Sept. 22.
In the interim role, Vela will receive $23,000 a month, according to his contract. That would pay him about $184,000 if he works for eight months. He also will receive $850 a month for in-district travel expenses, to defray costs in using his vehicle for official travel in-district and within 50 miles of the district administration building.
Vela has the option to apply for the superintendent position. He also remains eligible to return to his previous job as chief school operations and academic support officer.
Vela did not return several emails from the Kent Reporter for comment about getting hired as the interim superintendent, his goals in the role or whether he plans to apply to be the superintendent.
The interim superintendent is expected to finish out the 2021-2022 school year prior to a new superintendent starting next summer. A search by the board for a new superintendent is expected to start in January after voters select two new members to the five-member board on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
The board races are between Tim Clark and Sara Franklin for District No. 5 director and Awale Farah and Bradley Kenning for District No. 4 director. They will replace outgoing board members Daniels and Maya Vengadasalam, whose terms expire this year.